Productivity

10am — Get up and to the kitchen for catch-up with grandma. Make breakfast of bread, my favourite.  (I’m typing this at 1 am, as I do my best writing from 12 - 3 am)

10:30-12* — Idea generation for MFluence's customer journey.

12 noon — Make a cup of tea after going for 20 mins walk.

12:30 — Lunch, consisting of glutinous rice with chicken and veg broth (I have this almost every day.)

1-5pm* — Work time! Focusing on MFluence and GYAEN 90% in December. (Have Merlin TV series playing in the background.)

5pm* — Review GYAEN's 50 Young Global Leaders.

6pm — Spend time with family.

6:30-9pm — Go out for a walk, speak on the phone at the same time,

9-11pm — Shower, dinner and then catch up on Tv Series .

11-2am — Chill out and do whatever, probably reading for enjoyment or drinking catching up with team or friends. At home (phone) or out. Followed by sleep!

I have been testing software past 3 months. 80% was atrocious, however, the following free software has become part of me:

- HubSpot customer relation management system online app
https://www.hubspot.com/crm

- A text expander software 'Phrase Express'
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7Y_PJwEAss (see why you should use it)

- Gmail add-on: Boomerang (https://www.boomeranggmail.com/)
- Gmail add-on: Mailtrack (https://mailtrack.io/en)

- For online Anonymity, switch to TorBrowser (www.torproject.org/)

- Finally, with going back to Universtiy, learn to programme the easy way (https://www.raspberrypi.org/)

Hope they aid you, like it has with me.

1 Comment

I always havemy backpack on me. Allows me to work anywhere I want. What to carry was essential and I needed to see what was happening around the globe and what some of the most successful people carried.

Here it is! This was my golden nugget to work it all out. Matt Mullenweg helped me and for sure many other too around March. I should have shared it before - but - when my uncle made a pit-stop in UK when on his way to Spain from New York, lounging with his BackPack with full professional outlook ... I wanted to do this post specifically for him!

Matt, Whats in your Bag?

Many people have been requesting an update to my what’s in my bag post from last year. Almost every single item in the bag has changed, this year has had particularly high turnover. We’re still in a weird teenage period of USB-C adoption, and I hope by next year to have many fewer non-USB-C or Lightning cables. Things with a asterisk * are the same from last year. Without further ado:

  1. This is my favorite item of the new year, a Lululemon Cruiser backpack that has a million pockets both inside and outside, and allows me to carry more stuff, more comfortably, and access it faster. Lululemon updates their products and designs every few months, but if you ever spot something like this online or in the store check it out. Hat tip on this one to Rose.
  2. A short Lightning + micro USB cable, which is great for pairing with a battery pack. I sometimes carry a few of these around and give them away all the time, as “do you have a light?” has evolved to “do you have a charge?” in the new millenium.
  3. Short regular USB to USB-C cable.
  4. Belkin Retractable Ethernet. *
  5. Anker USB-C to USB-C cable. Make sure to read the reviews when you buy these to get the ones that do the proper voltage. I can charge a Macbook with this, and the new Nexus 5x, directly from the battery pack or the #43 wall charger.
  6. Mini-USB cable, which I use for the odd older device (like a Nikon camera) that still does mini-USB (that older big one). Would love to get rid of this one.
  7. A charge cable for #45, the Fitbit Charge HR. You can buy these cheap on Amazon, and if you lose it you’re out of luck, so I usually keep a few at home and one in my bag.
  8. This is my goldilocks regular lightning cable, not too long and not too short, 0.5m.
  9. A retractable micro-USB.
  10. Apple Magic Mouse 2, the new one that charges via Lightning, natch.
  11. Way over to the right, a small Muji notebook.
  12. This is a weird but cool cable, basically bridges USB to Norelco shavers. I use a Norelco beard trimmer and for some reason all of these companies think we want to carry around proprietary chargers, this is a slightly unwieldy cable but better than carrying around the big Norelco power brick.
  13. Lockpick set. *
  14. Lavender mint organic lip balm from Honest Co, which I think I got for free somewhere.
  15. Aesop rosehip seed lip cream, which I bought mostly for the smell, when it’s done I’ll probably switch to their lip balm. (I should do a cosmetics version of this for my dopp kit, it’s had lots of trial and error as well.) I love Aesop, especially their Resurrection line.
  16. Aveda Blue Oil that I find relaxing. *
  17. Short thunderbolt to thunderbolt cable, which is great for transferring between computers. *
  18. Muji international power adapter, much simpler, lighter, and cooler than what I used before.
  19. Way on the top right, this is probably the least-travel-friendly thing I travel with, but the utility is so great I put up with it. It’s the Sennheiser Culture Series Wideband Headset, which I use for podcasts, Skype, Facetime, Zoom, and Google Hangout calls with external folks and teams inside of Automattic. Light, comfortable, great sound quality, and great at blocking out background noise so you don’t annoy other people on the call. Worth the hassle.
  20. A customized Macbook Pro 15″, in space grey, with the WordPress logo that shines through.
  21. Belkin car mount, which is great for rentals. *
  22. A USB 3.0 SD / CompactFlash / etc reader.
  23. microSD to SD adapter, with a 64gb micro SD in it. Good for cameras, phones, and occasionally transferring files. Can be paired with the card reader if the computer has a USB port but not a SD reader. When you get a microSD card it usually comes with this.
  24. One of my new favorite things: DxO One camera. It’s a SLR-quality camera that plugs in directly to the lightning port on your iPhone, and can store the photos directly on your phone. Photo quality is surprisingly good, the only problem I’ve had with it is the lightning port pop-up will no longer close. The other similar device I tried but wasn’t as good was the Olympus Air A01, so I just carry around the DxO now.
  25. TP-LINK TL-WR702N Wireless N150 Travel Router, which works so-so. Not sure why I still carry this, haven’t used it in a while. *
  26. Aukey car 49.5W 3-port USB adapter, which has two high-powered USB ports and a Quick Charge 3.0 USB-C port.
  27. My favorite external battery right now, the RAVPower 20100mAh Portable Charger, also with Quick Charge 3.0 and a USB-C port. This thing is a beast, can charge a USB-C Macbook too.
  28. Kindle Voyage with the brown leather cover. *
  29. Macbook power adapter.
  30. Very cool Sennheiser Momentum Wireless headphones in ivory,customized with the WordPress logo. I’m testing this out as a possible gift for Automatticians when they reach a certain number of years at the company. For a fuller review, see this post.
  31. Cotopaxi water bottle that I got for free at the Summit at Sea conference. The backpack has a handy area to carry a water bottle, and I’ve become a guy who refills water bottles at the airport instead of always buying disposable ones.
  32. Special cord for the #30 Momentum headphones.
  33. Retractable 1/8th inch audio cable. *
  34. Powerbeats 2 Wireless headphones that I use for running, working out, or just going around the city.
  35. Belkin headphone splitter, for sharing audio when watching a movie on a plane. *
  36. Chromecast audio, which I’ve never used but it’s so small and light I carry it around just in case.
  37. Chromecast TV, which I’ve also never used but also small and light and I’m sure it’ll come in handy one of these days.
  38. Verizon iPhone 6s+, which is normal, but the new thing here is I’ve stopped carrying a wallet, and a separate phone case, and now carry this big ‘ol Sena Heritage Wallet Book. At first I felt utterly ridiculous doing this as it feels GINORMOUS at first, but after it wore in a little bit, and I got used to it, it’s so freeing to only have one thing to keep track of, and it’s also forced me to carry a lot less than I used to in my wallet.
  39. Maison Bonnet sunglasses. Hat tip to Tony.
  40. Stickers! Wapuu and Slack.
  41. Bucky eye shades, like an eye mask but has a curve so it doesn’t touch your eyes. I don’t use this often but when I do it’s a life-saver. *
  42. My favorite USB wall plug, after trying dozens, is this Aukey 30W / 6A travel wall charger. I love the foldable plug, and it’s really fast.
  43. I generally only have one wall charger, but temporarily carrying around thisTronsmart 33W USB-C + USB charger with Quick Charge 3.0, which can very quickly charge the battery or the Nexus, and a Macbook in a pinch. Hopefully will combine this and #42 sometime this year. One thing I really dislike about this item is the bright light on it, which I need to cover with tape.
  44. The only pill / vitamin / anything I take every day: Elysium Health Basis. I’m not an expert or a doctor, but read up on them and the research around it, pretty interesting stuff.
  45. Fitbit Charge HR. I gave up on my Apple Watch. I’ll probably try the Fitbit watch when it comes out. My favorite feature is the sleep tracking. Least favorite is the retro screen, and that it doesn’t always show the time.
  46. Double-sided sharpie (thick and thin point) and a Muji pen.
  47. Westone ES49 custom earplugs, for if I go to concerts or anyplace overly loud. *
  48. Some index cards, good for brainstorming.
  49. Passport. * As Mia Farrow said about Frank Sinatra, “I learned to bring my passport to dinner.”
  50. Jetpack notebook, I like to have a paper notebook to take notes, especially in group or product meetings, because there isn’t the distraction of a screen.
  51. Nexus 5x, which is definitely one of the better Android devices I’ve had, paired withGoogle Project Fi phone / data service, which has saved me thousands of dollars with its $10/gb overseas data pricing. Since my iPhone is so huge, I tried to go for a smaller Android device. I always travel with both in case something happens to one phone, for network diversity, and as I said this has better international data pricing than Verizon.
  52. Business card holder. *
  53. Post-it notes.

All in all 13 items stayed the same, the other 40 are new to this edition.

That’s a wrap, folks! If you have any questions or suggestions please drop them in the comments. Once my no-buying-things moratorium for Lent is over I can start trying new things out again.

A few people have asked how much the bag weighs with all of this stuff in it. I didn’t weigh it at the time of the photo, but at the airport the other day I put it on the luggage scale and it came in at 16 pounds, which is probably close enough. The pockets on the Lululemon backpack distribute the “stuff” pretty well and it doesn’t feel heavy at all, and doesn’t stick out too far on my back.

 

See full article at:https://ma.tt/2016/03/whats-in-my-bag-2016-edition/

Also see one of my fav Podcast at Tim Ferriss's Podcast with Matt Mullenweg at http://fourhourworkweek.com/2015/02/09/matt-mullenweg/

It's Monday 27th 2016 - 13.25.

No sleep since Saturday. I can't carry on. What the hell am I doing?? I got so much to do. Why bother changing the world.

This is me moaning about my sorrows. Apparently bad, sex and violence sells. So this is NOT A HAPPY SELF-HELP POST. I don't get self-helpers. Most people cry inside, how can they help others.

I am down. 7 am I spoke to my friend in Canada, I made her smile. I felt happy. My insides woke up. That smile was my caffeine.It reminded me of what works for James Altucher. I stole his manifest. It wasn't like he was helping me. He was telling me what worked for him.

Trying it myself.

It worked for me.

It allowed me to remember why I set my path to changing the world. It helps me everyday to not lose my interest. It keeps me going.

Thanks James. This has allowed me to make others smile. My caffeine.

– Do things that will make me laugh. Do things that will make others laugh. Laughter is the one key to long, quality life.

– Treat everyone as if they are going to die tomorrow. My sweet baby.

– Spend time with people who love me and who I love. Your family might change every day.

– Give everything inside of you away. Else your life gets constipated.

– Keep my word. That’s the one thing you don’t give away lightly. Keep it.

– Spend time with people who I will learn things from (and hopefully vice-versa). They were sent to you for a reason. You’re never going to know the reason.

– Books are virtual mentors. Read a lot.

– Move. Then move again.

– It’s ok to be average if you are a good person. In most things, I’m average or below average. I’m average at following this manifesto. It’s hard to be average.

– Follow your curiosity. That means something different for each person, and for each day. Today I was curious about underwear with pockets and how many albums Pink Floyd sold on “Dark Side of the Moon”. No reason.

– I try to eat well. I see too many older people in pain because of poor eating decisions when they were younger.

– It’s none of my business what people think of me. Someone recently called me “hateful” and then lectured me on the benefits of polygamy. Hey man, we’re all brothers. Life’s too short to waste time not laughing at the joke.

– I try not to need permission for anything. Once I ask, I just let someone else build my ceiling, blocking me from the stars.

– One way to choose yourself is to help the person around you who needs the most help today. Do it without expectation and then you exceed all expectations.

– When I depend on others to choose my path, I know that I won’t be as happy as when I choose my path.

– There are many layers to choosing yourself. So treat yourself gently when you think you messed up. I messed up on something recently. It feels bad. I have to wait it out and be gentle to myself.

– Find new things to be grateful for.

– Listen. You can’t learn if you are talking.

– Listen more if someone is in pain. Don’t solve. Just listen.

– Worrying doesn’t solve tomorrow’s problems and only takes away energy from today. And regret is a black hole of nothing.

– Splitting an atom releases 1,000,0000x more energy than smashing a table. I try to celebrate always the smallest of successes. A kiss is a small success. And it splits an emotional atom.

– For every night, there is a day

– I take real delight in people who have stories to tell me. Particularly if the story has pictures.

– Every day I try to get out of my comfort zone at least once. This helps me feel connected to people. I’m grateful for the people who teach me new ways to get out of my comfort zone.

– I try to be creative. But selfishly. Because it makes my brain go on fire and have comic book powers.

– Before, during, or after, I say, do, or think something, I try not to hurt anyone. “After” is just as important as “Before” and “During”.

– When I am feeling low, rest. When I’m feeling high, do my best.

– The best predictor of a good tomorrow, is a good today.

– Honesty, Humor, Health, Help.

 

Post finished at 13.36.

Only around 10 minutes to tick of another of my manifest. TIme to go back to changing the world.

Let me be a super-hero or stay awake long enough to see myself turn in to a villain.

“You interrupt too much,” people email me. “Let your guests finish talking.” But I can’t help it. I get curious. I want to know! Now!
Over the past year I interviewed about 80 guests for my podcast. My only criteria: I was fascinated by some aspect of each person.

I didn’t limit myself by saying “each one had to be an entrepreneur” or “had to be a success.”

I just wanted to talk to anyone who made me curious about their lives. I spoke to entrepreneurs, comedians, artists, producers, astronauts, writers, rappers, and even this country’s largest beer brewer.

Will I do it for the next year? Maybe. It’s hard.

Sometimes I would pursue a guest for six months with no reply and then they would call and say, “Can you do right now?” and I’d change all plans with kids, Claudia, business.

I had no favorites. They were all great. I interviewed Peter ThielCoolioMark CubanArianna HuffingtonAmanda PalmerTony Robbins, and many more. I’m really grateful they all wanted to talk to me.

Podcasting, to be honest, was just an excuse for me to call up whoever I wanted to call and ask them all sorts of personal questions about their lives. If I wanted to talk about “Star Wars,” I called the author of a dozen Star Wars novels.

If I wanted to talk about Twisted Sister, I called up the founder of the band. If I wanted to talk sex I called the women who ran the “Ask Women” podcast.

I wanted to know at what point were they at their worst. And how they got better. Each person created a unique life. I wanted to know how they did it. I was insanely curious.

As Coolio told me, “You got me to reveal some deep stuff I didn’t want to reveal. Kudos.” Tony Robbins had to literally shake himself at one point and say, “Wait, how did we end up talking about this?” I can’t help it. I want to know.

Here are the most important things I learned. I can’t specify which person I learned what from. It hurts my head when I think about it because many of the 80 said the exact same thing about how they ended up where they were.

Here is some of what they said:

A) A life is measured in decades.

Too many people want happiness, love, money, connections, everything yesterday. Me too. I call it “the disease.” I feel often I can paint over a certain emptiness inside if only…if only…I have X.

But a good life is like the flame of a bonfire. It builds slowly, and because it’s slow and warm it caresses the heart instead of destroys it.

B) A life is measured by what you did TODAY, even this moment.

This is the opposite of “A” but the same. You get success in decades by having success now.

That doesn’t mean money now. It means, “Are you doing your best today?”

Everyone worked at physical health, improving their friendships and connections with others, being creative, being grateful. Every day.

For those who didn’t, they quickly got sick, depressed, anxious, fearful. They had to change their lives. When they made that change, universally they all said to me, “that’s when it all started.”

C) Focus is not important, but Push is (reinvention).

Very few people have just one career. And for every career, it’s never straight up.

When you have focus, it’s like saying, “I’m just going to learn about only one thing forever.” But “the push” is the ability to get up every day, open up the shades, and push through all the things that make you want to go back to sleep.

Even if it means changing careers 10 times. Or changing your life completely. Just pushing forward to create a little more life inside yourself.

Compound life is much more powerful than compound interest.

D) Give without thinking of what you will receive.

I don’t think I spoke to a single person who believed in setting personal goals. But 100% of the people I spoke to wanted to solve a problem for the many.

It doesn’t matter how you give each day. It doesn’t even matter how much. But everyone wanted to give and eventually they were given back. (cc Adam Grant)

E) Solving hard problems is more important than overcoming failure.

The outside world is a mirror of what you have on the inside. If Thomas Edison viewed his 999 attempts at creating a lightbulb a failure then he would’ve given up. His inside was curious. His inside viewed his “attempts” as experiments. Then he did #1000. Now we can see in the dark.

Dan Ariely was burned all over his body and used that experience to research the psychology of pain and ultimately the psychology of behavior and how we can make better decisions.

Tony Robbins lost everything when his marriage ended, but he came back by coaching thousands of people.

It’s how you view the life inside you that creates the life outside of you. Every day.

F) Art and success and love is about connecting all the dots.

Here are some dots: The very personal sadness sitting inside of you. The things you learn. The things you read about. The things you love. Connect the dots. Give it to someone.

Now you just gave birth to a legacy that will continue beyond you.

G) It’s not business, it’s personal.

Nobody succeeded with a great idea.

Everyone succeeded because they built networks within networks of connections, friends, colleagues all striving towards their own personal goals, all trusting each other, and working together to help each other succeed.

This is what happens only over time. This is why giving creates a bigger world because you can never predict what will happen years later.

Biz Markie described to me how he helped a 7-year-old kid named Jay-Z with his lyrics.

Peter Thiel’s ex employees created tens of billions of dollars worth of companies.

Marcus Lemonis saves businesses every week on his show “The Profit.” It doesn’t come by fixing their accounting. It comes from fixing the relationships with the partners and the customers and the investors.

The best way to create a great business over time: Every day send one thank you letter to someone from your past. People (me) often say you can’t look back at the past. But this is the one way you can. You create the future by thanking the past.

H) You can’t predict the outcome, you can only do your best.

Hugh Howey thought he would write novels that only his family would read. So he wrote ten of them. Then he wrote “Wool,” which he self-published and has sold millions of copies and Ridley Scott is making the movie.

Clayton Anderson applied to be an astronaut for 15 years in a row and was rejected each time until the 16th.

Coolio wrote lyrics down every day for 17 years before having a hit. Noah Kaganwas fired from Facebook and Mint without making a dime before starting his own business. Wayne Dyer quit his secure job as a tenured professor, put a bunch of his books in car and drove across the country selling them in every bookstore. Now he’s sold over 100,000,000 books.

Sometimes when I have conversations with these people they want to jump right to the successful parts but I stop them. I want to know the low points. The points where they had to start doing their best. What got them to that point.

I) The same philosophy of life should work for an emperor and a slave.

Ryan Holiday told me that both Marcus Aurelius, an emperor, and Epictetus, a slave, both subscribed to the idea of stoicism. You can’t predict pleasure or pain. You can only strive for knowledge and giving and fairness and health each day.

Many people write me it’s easy for so-and-so to say that now that he’s rich. Every single person I spoke to started off in a gutter or worse. (Well, most of them.)

Luck is certainly a component, but in chess there’s a saying (and this applies to anything) “it’s funny how always the best players seem to be lucky.”

J) The only correct path is the path correct for you.

Scott Adams tried about 20 different careers before he settled on drawing Dilbert. Now, he’s in 2000 papers, has written Dilbert books, Dilbert shows, Dilbert everything. Everyone was shocked when Judy Joo gave up a Wall St. career to go back to cooking school. Now she’s on the Food Channel as an “iron chef.”

Don’t let other people choose your careers. Don’t get locked in other people’s prisons they’ve set up just for you. Personal freedom starts from the inside but ultimately turns you into a giant, freeing you from the chains the little people spent years tying around you.

K) Many moments of small, positive, personal interactions build an extraordinary career.

Often people think that you have to fight your way to the top. But for everyone I spoke to it was small kindnesses over a long period of time that built the ladder to success. I think I’m starting to sound like a cliche on this. But it’s only a cliche because it’s true.

L) Taking care of yourself comes first.

Kamal Ravikant picked himself off a suicidal bottom by constantly repeating “I love you” to himself. Charlie Hoehn cured his anxiety by using every moment he could to play.

I’ve written before: The average kid laughs 300 times a day. The average adult…5.

Something knifed our ability to smile. Do everything you can to laugh, to create laughter for others, and then what can possibly be bad about today? I think that’s why I try to interview so many comedians are comedy writers. They make me laugh. It’s totally selfish.

M) The final answer: People do end up loving what they succeed at, or they succeed at what they love.

Mark Cuban said, “My passion was to get rich!” But I don’t really believe him. He loved computers so he created a software company. Then he wanted to watch Ohio basketball in Pittsburgh so he created Broadcast.com. I worked with Broadcast.com a little bit back in 1997. They were crusaders about bringing video to the Internet.

Sure, he wanted to use that to get rich. Because he knew better than anyone then how to let a good idea lead him to success.

But deep down he was a little kid who wanted to watch his favorite basketball. And now what does he do? He owns a basketball team.

N) Anybody, at any age

The ages of the people I spoke to ranged from 20 to 75. Each is still participating every day in the worldwide conversation. I asked Dick Yuengling from Yuengling beer why he even bothered to talk to me. He’s 75 and runs the biggest American-owned brewery worth about $2 billion. He laughed and said, “Well, you asked me.”

I just realized this list can go on for another 100 items.

The specifics of success. How to overcome hardships. How any one person can move society forward.

Down to even what are the most productive hours of the day, what’s the one word most important for success, and what we can look forward to over the next century and maybe 100 other things.

O) Figure out How to Make Uncertainty Work for You

Nassim Taleb makes sure he walks on uneven surfaces for at least 20 hours a week. The idea is not just exercise, but to get rid of the artificial comforts of certainty we think we have built for ourselves over the past 200 years.

When I interviewed him I was particularly worried that I was “fragile” as opposed to his concept of “Antifragile”. That once things break down in my life I have a tendency to break down with them. His book was rooted in economic concepts but it also applied to the personal.

Getting out of your comfort zone frequently and randomly is a way to boost your anti-fragility. Do something that might not work. Be around people who challenge you.

See what happens.

Then I learned many things about myself.

Most of the people I asked to come on my podcast said, “NO!” I told Claudia the other day I haven’t been rejected this much since freshman year of high school. I had to re-learn how to deal with so much rejection.

I’ve always been a big reader but never as much as this year. I read everything by all the guests.

Some weeks I felt like I was spending 10 hours a day preparing for podcasts. I learned to interview, to listen, to prepare, to pursue, to entertain, to educate.

Podcasting seems like it’s becoming an industry, or a business idea, or something worth looking at by entrepreneurs or investors. I have no clue about that.

For me, podcasting this year was just about calling anyone I wanted to call and talking to them. I felt like a little boy interviewing his heroes.

I highly recommend finding ways to call people for almost no reason. I learned a huge amount.

But it was hard.

It’s one of those things where I can say, “I don’t know if I can ever do that again.” But I also know I’m probably going to say the same thing next year.

Meeting new people can be awkward. What should you say? How can you make a good impression? How do you keep a conversation going?

Research shows relationships are vital to happiness and networking is the key to getting jobs and building a fulfilling career.

But what’s the best way to build rapport and create trust? Plain and simple, who can explain how to get people to like you?

Robin Dreeke can.

Robin was head of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Program and has studied interpersonal relations for over 27 years.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHHLrozfUQs

 

He is the author of the excellent book, It’s Not All About “Me”: The Top Ten Techniques for Building Quick Rapport with Anyone.

I gave Robin a call to get some answers. (Note that Robin is not speaking for the FBI here, these are his expert insights.)

You’re going to learn:

  1. The #1 secret to clicking with people.
  2. How to put strangers at ease.
  3. The thing you do that turns people off the most.
  4. How to use body language like a pro.
  5. Some great verbal jiu-jitsu to use on people who try to manipulate you.

And a lot more. Okay, let’s learn something.

 

1) The Most Important Thing To Do With Anyone You Meet

Robin’s #1 piece of advice: “Seek someone else’s thoughts and opinions without judging them.”

Ask questions. Listen. But don’t judge. Nobody — including you — likes to feel judged.

Here’s Robin:

The number one strategy I constantly keep in the forefront of my mind with everyone I talk to is non-judgmental validation. Seek someone else’s thoughts and opinions without judging them. People do not want to be judged in any thought or opinion that they have or in any action that they take.

It doesn’t mean you agree with someone. Validation is taking the time to understand what their needs, wants, dreams and aspirations are.

So what should you do when people start spouting crazy talk? Here’s Robin:

What I prefer to try to do is, as soon as I hear something that I don’t necessarily agree with or understand, instead of judging it my first reaction is, “Oh, that’s really fascinating. I never heard it in quite that way. Help me understand. How did you come up with that?”

You’re not judging, you’re showing interest. And that lets people calmly continue talking about their favorite subject: themselves.

Studies show people get more pleasure from talking about themselves than they do fromfood or money:

Talking about ourselves—whether in a personal conversation or through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter—triggers the same sensation of pleasure in the brain as food or money…

(To learn how FBI hostage negotiators build rapport and trust, click here.)

So you’ve stopped being Judgy Judgerson and you’re happily validating. Oh, if it were only that easy… What’s the problem here? Your ego.

 

2) Suspend Your Ego To Make People Love You

Most of us are just dying to point out how other people are wrong. (Comment sections on the internet are fueled by this, aren’t they?)

And it kills rapport. Want to correct someone? Want to one-up them with your clever little story? Don’t do it.

Here’s Robin:

Ego suspension is putting your own needs, wants and opinions aside. Consciously ignore your desire to be correct and to correct someone else. It’s not allowing yourself to get emotionally hijacked by a situation where you might not agree with someone’s thoughts, opinions or actions.

Contradicting people doesn’t build relationships. Dale Carnegie said it many years ago — andmodern neuroscience agrees.

When people hear things that contradict their beliefs, the logical part of their mind shuts down and their brain prepares to fight.

Via Compelling People: The Hidden Qualities That Make Us Influential:

So what happened in people’s brains when they saw information that contradicted their worldview in a charged political environment? As soon as they recognized the video clips as being in conflict with their worldview, the parts of the brain that handle reason and logic went dormant. And the parts of the brain that handle hostile attacks — the fight-or-flight response — lit up.

(For more on keeping a conversation fun, click here.)

So you’ve stopped trying to be clever. But how do you get a reputation as a great listener?

 

3) How To Be A Good Listener

We’ve all heard that listening skills are vital but nobody explains the right way to do it. What’s the secret?

Stop thinking about what you’re going to say next and focus on what they’re saying right now.

Be curious and ask to hear more about what interests you.

Here’s Robin:

Listening isn’t shutting up. Listening is having nothing to say. There’s a difference there. If you just shut up, it means you’re still thinking about what you wanted to say. You’re just not saying it. The second that I think about my response, I’m half listening to what you’re saying because I’m really waiting for the opportunity to tell you my story.

What you do is this: as soon as you have that story or thought that you want to share, toss it. Consciously tell yourself, “I am not going to say it.”

All you should be doing is asking yourself, “What idea or thought that they mentioned do I find fascinating and want to explore?”

Research shows just asking people to tell you more makes you more likable and gets them to want to help you.

The basics of active listening are pretty straightforward:

  1. Listen to what they say. Don’t interrupt, disagree or “evaluate.”
  2. Nod your head, and make brief acknowledging comments like “yes” and “uh-huh.”
  3. Without being awkward, repeat back the gist of what they just said, from their frame of reference.
  4. Ask questions that show you’ve been paying attention and that move the discussion forward.

(To learn the listening techniques of FBI hostage negotiators, click here.)

I know, I know — some people are just boring. You’re not that interested in what they’re saying. So what questions do you ask then, smart guy?

 

4) The Best Question To Ask People

Life can be tough for everyone: rich or poor, old or young. Everyone.

We all face challenges and we like to talk about them. So that’s what to ask about.

Here’s Robin:

A great question I love is challenges. “What kind of challenges did you have at work this week? What kind of challenges do you have living in this part of the country? What kinds of challenges do you have raising teenagers?” Everyone has got challenges. It gets people to share what their priorities in life are at that point in time.

Questions are incredibly powerful. What’s one of the most potent ways to influence someone? Merely asking for advice.

Via Adam Grant’s excellent Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success:

Studies demonstrate that across the manufacturing, financial services, insurance, and pharmaceuticals industries, seeking advice is among the most effective ways to influence peers, superiors, and subordinates. Advice seeking tends to be significantly more persuasive than the taker’s preferred tactics of pressuring subordinates and ingratiating superiors. Advice seeking is also consistently more influential than the matcher’s default approach of trading favors.

Twisting your mustache thinking you can use this for nefarious purposes? Wrong, Snidely Whiplash. It only works when you’re sincere.

Via Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success:

In her research on advice seeking, Liljenquist finds that success “depends on the target perceiving it as a sincere and authentic gesture.” When she directly encouraged people to seek advice as an influence strategy, it fell flat.

(For a list of the questions that can create a strong bond in minutes, click here.)

But what if you have to approach someone cold? How do you get people who might not want to talk to you to willingly give you their attention?

 

5) How To Make Strangers Feel At Ease

First thing: tell them you only have a minute because you’re headed out the door. 

Here’s Robin:

When people think you’re leaving soon, they relax. If you sit down next to someone at a bar and say, “Hey, can I buy you a drink?” their shields go way up. It’s “Who are you, what do you want, and when are you leaving?” That “when are you leaving” is what you’ve got to answer in the first couple of seconds.

Research shows just asking people if now is a good time makes them more likely to comply with requests:

The results showed that compliance rates were higher when the requester inquired about respondents’ availability and waited for a response than when he pursued his set speech without waiting and inquiring about respondents’ availability.

Nobody wants to feel trapped talking to some weirdo. People are more likely to help you than you think, but they need to feel safe and in control.

(For more on how to make friends easily, click here.)

Even if you get all of the above right you can still come off like a shady used car salesman. And that fear stops you from meeting new awesome people.

Robin says one of the key reasons people come off as untrustworthy is because their words and their body language are misaligned. Let’s fix that.

 

6) The Best Body Language For Building Rapport

You words should be positive, free of ego and judgment — and your body language (“non-verbals”) needs to match.

Here are the things Robin recommends:

  1. “The number one thing isyou’ve gotta smile. You absolutely have to smile. A smile is a great way to engender trust.”
  2. “Keep that chin angle downso it doesn’t appear like you’re looking down your nose at anyone. And if you can show a little bit of a head tilt, that’s always wonderful.”
  3. “You don’t want to give a full frontal, full body display.That could be very offensive to someone. Give a little bit of an angle.”
  4. “Keep yourpalms up as you’re talking, as opposed to palms down. That says, “I’m hearing what you’re saying. I’m open to what your ideas are.”
  5. “So I always want to make sure that I’m showinggood, open, comfortable non-verbals. I just try to use high eyebrow elevations. Basically, anything going up and elevating is very open and comforting. Anything that is compressing: lip compression, eyebrow compression, where you’re squishing down, that’s conveying stress.”

Research backs him up. From Dale Carnegie to peer-reviewed studies, everyone says smiles matter. (In fact, to increase their power, smile slower.)

It makes us happier too. Neuroscience research shows smiling gives the brain as much pleasure as 2000 bars of chocolate — or $25,000.

Via Smile: The Astonishing Powers of a Simple Act:

Depending on whose smile you see, the researchers found that one smile can be as pleasurable and stimulating as up to 2,000 bars of chocolate! …it took up to 16,000 pounds sterling in cash to generate the same level of brain stimulation as one smile! This is equivalent to about $25,000 per smile…

(To learn how to decode body language and read people like a book, click here.)

So now you come off as the pleasant person you are, not as a scheming taker. But what do you do when the other person is a scheming taker?

 

7) How To Deal With Someone You Don’t Trust

The name of this blog is not “Helpful Tools For Sociopaths.” I’m not trying to teach you to manipulate others.

But what should do you do when you feel someone is using these methods to try and manipulate you?

Don’t be hostile but be direct: ask them what they want. What are their goals in this interaction?

Here’s Robin:

The first thing I try to do is clarify goals. I’ll stop and say, “You’re throwing a lot of good words at me. Obviously you’re very skilled at what you’re doing. But what I’m really curious about… What’s your goal? What are you trying to achieve? I’m here with my goals, but obviously you have to achieve your goals. So if you can just tell me what your objectives are, we can start from there and see if we can mutually take care of them. If not, that’s fine too.”

I watch for validation. If someone is trying to validate me and my thoughts and opinions, I am alert to it. I love doing that as well. So now I’m looking for intent. Are you there for me or are you there for you? If you are there strictly for your own gain and you’re not talking in terms of my priorities ever, that’s when I’m seeing someone is there to manipulate me.

Want to build a connection with someone? Focus on trust, not tricks. That’s how you earnrespect. Trust is fragile. And mistrust is self-fulfilling.

When you ask people what the most important character trait is, what do they say? Trustworthiness.

Participants in 3 studies considered various characteristics for ideal members of interdependent groups (e.g., work teams, athletic teams) and relationships (e.g., family members, employees). Across different measures of trait importance and different groups and relationships, trustworthiness was considered extremely important for all interdependent others…

(To learn how to detect lies, click here.)

That’s a lot more to digest than “Just be yourself” but far more effective. Let’s round it up and make it something you can start using today.

 

Sum Up

Here are Robin’s tips:

  1. The single most important thing is non-judgmental validation. Seek someone else’s thoughts and opinions without judging them.
  2. Suspend your ego. Focus on them.
  3. Really listen, don’t just wait to talk. Ask them questions; don’t try to come up with stories to impress.
  4. Ask people about what’s been challenging them.
  5. Establishing a time constraint early in the conversation can put strangers at ease.
  6. Smile, chin down, blade your body, palms up, open and upward non-verbals.
  7. If you think someone is trying to manipulate you, clarify goals. Don’t be hostile or aggressive, but ask them to be straight about what they want.

(For more insights from Robin’s book, click here.)

I once wanted to be a stand-up comedian but I was too afraid to even go on a stage. Then I wanted to do a TV show but kept getting rejected. So finally I switched industries and started an Internet business.

Louis CK is my favorite comedian. He is the high priest of understanding our culture. I watch him every day. I watch the same routine over and over. I can spend hours breaking down every line of his routines. I watch him before I give talks because I get to borrow his confidence. I used to watch him before dates. I even watch him before I hang out with my kids.

I first saw him perform live in 1995 or 1996 at the Aspen Comedy Festival. I went two years in a row. One time I bored Dave Chapelle to death. I kept talking and talking and finally he said, “Excuse me, I have to get out of here and find me a girl for tonight!”

Another time there I asked Al Franken if I could interview him. He looked me up and down and said, “No” and walked on. Fair enough. Now he’s a U.S. senator, and I just write random stuff on my Facebook wall.

They both said “no” and moved on. But I needed them to say “yes” and didn’t know how to get them to.

Louis CK did a bit in his last show that was sort of outrageous. It begins with killing kids and ends with justification for slavery. In it, to get laughs, he uses the exact same sales technique that has made the Hare Krishnas billions of dollars and should be used by everybody on a daily basis. He starts off saying “Children who have nut allergies need to be protected… of coursebut maybe…if touching a nut kills you…you’re supposed to die.”

Everyone laughs and claps.

He has funny delivery. He says “Of course not, Of course not, but maybe, but maybe,” and then he holds his hand over his eyes and says “if we all do this for a year we’d be done with nut allergies forever.”

Everyone laughs. It’s funny. He has some compassion in it (“of course notbut“), so he’s forgiven. I forgive him. He makes it funny and we clap.

He does a few more. Then he says, “Of course… slavery was bad.” And suddenly he hit a third rail. Everyone stops for a second. They don’t know whether to clap or not. It’s against the rules!

But then he hits the entire point of the joke. The reason the joke is so funny. The entire reason Louis CK is an artist and has risen to the top of his profession. He goes up against that awkward pause from the audience. He then goes past it and brings them with him.

Society (parents, schools, colleagues, government, etc.) builds up walls. Evolution builds up walls. The walls are in our brain. Art bangs against them and forces us to go “OUCH!” or have some other reaction (laughter, creation, innovation, excitement).

When people stop laughing for a second at the word “slavery,” Louis CK stops his joke and unveils the real joke:

“Listen, listen, you all clapped for dead kids and the nuts.” He then mimicked the clapping. In every way he reminds them of how funny they thought kids dying of nut allergies was. And how ludicrous it is but they still laughed.

Then he points out the whole audience: “So you’re in this with me now, do you understand? You don’t get to cherry pick. Those kids did nothing to you.”

And now the audience was laughing again. Even louder than before. Some people were cheering. He was ready now for his joke on slavery.

 Watch it here: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkjmzEEQUlE

This was what was funny. The reality is: they did have the right to cherry pick.

But he used a clever psychological technique to make them think they didn’t. And it’s the same trick Hare Krishnas have used to raise billions of dollars.

It’s a trick you need to be aware of if you want to succeed in life — to say “no” when you need to and to help others get to “yes” when you need them to.

When the Hare Krishnas first started preaching in airports they had nothing going for them. Nobody would listen to them.

They raised no money. They were failures. Who would give money to a strange-looking shaved guy dressed in robes with totally different beliefs who had his hand out?

Answer: Nobody.

Then everything changed and they became the fastest-growing religious movement in the United States in the 1970s. They raised billions of dollars.

What did they do? What changed?

Flowers.

The first thing they did when they met you was give you a 5-cent daisy. In fact, since so many people threw out the daisies, they often gave you a used daisy because they would fish them out of the garbage cans.

And yet, once you took that daisy, your brain flipped an evolutionary switch. You were on!

You would now have to listen and maybe even agree with the rest of their story and give them money.

There are two rules at work here:

1) The law of reciprocity. If someone does something for you, the brain feels obligated to return the favor. Evolution weeded out the people who would not do anything for you. People learned to cooperate like this so they would survive in the jungle.

Robert Cialdini covers this rule in his book “Influence.” That said, I do not believe this rule is applicable here but a slightly different and more critical rule.

The law of reciprocity is really just a subset of the rule that governs almost every transaction and conversation in our lives.

2) Commitment bias. If you say “yes” to something small, your brain has already decided, “this is someone I can trust and say ‘yes’ to.”

For instance, in a study, if someone asks you “Would you be interested in hearing about causes that can help the environment?” (almost everyone says “yes” because that’s an easy “yes”) then you are about 50 percent more likely to donate when a donation is asked for than if you hadn’t been asked that simple first question.

Commitment bias works because you had to know who was reliable in the jungle 100,000 years ago. You had to know if someone was on your side or not. If they demonstrated it once, then chances are they are on your side and were trustworthy.

Do you want to know what the most popular article ever on my blog is? It’s the one where I say nobody should ever own a home again. People hate this article. They hate it because there’s probably nothing else in life with higher commitment bias.

If you just put $100,000 (or $10,000) down on a home and more on maintenance, taxes, etc., you don’t want anyone telling you you made a mistake. You have huge commitment bias as opposed to the second before you put any money down.

Louis CK made use of the second law (the first law is implicit – he is putting on a show for them so he is giving them something) in this joke.

He got them to laugh to a milder version of the joke (peanut allergies, where even he says, “of course not. I have a nephew with peanut allergies and I would be devastated if something were to happen to him, so he shows his compassion. He’s one of us.)

But now they are in. They took the flower. Now they have to hear the more extreme version of the joke (“slavery”) and they even have to laugh (like people would have to donate billions to the Hare Krishnas).

He knew this (“You’re all in this with me now” even though they weren’t really) and their brains were sucked in and, when you listen to the video, they are actually laughing even harder now.

When dealing with people in business or even in relationships, get them to “yes” on something simple. Then they are in.

This is why learning the “Power of No” is so important. It fights our evolutionary tendencies that were important for 500,000 years but are no longer as important.

I love this joke. I laughed. Because he also makes subtle reference to history.

Each major language in the world — English, Spanish, Han Chinese, and Arabic — are the languages of genocidal empires that at one point or another conquered the entire world.

So as much as you like to speak English, and as much as you like our culture and art and everything, it’s the result of centuries of conquest and killing and slavery. And we live in it and order take-out and watch “American Idol” and participate in the culture.

So you’re all in on this now. You can’t cherry pick your history.

Which is what Louis CK’s joke is really about without him explicitly saying it. It turns history upside down. It uses clever psychological tactics that are used (and often abused) in marketing, and he gets people to laugh all at the same time.

That’s why Louis CK is the master. That’s why I love him.

I’ve also lately been really enjoying CK, Daniel Tosh, Marina Franklin, Jim Norton and Anthony Jeselnik. If you have other favorites, please put them in the comments. I need new people to watch

 

How to beat chronic procrastination

I’ve posted a fair amount of research related to procrastination in the past, let’s round it up so we have a useful list to refer to when willpower gets low.

 

1) “Positive” Procrastination

Yes, that’s right, procrastination can be a good thing.

Dr. John Perry, author of The Art of Procrastination, explains a good method for leveraging your laziness:

The key to productivity, he argues in “The Art of Procrastination,” is to make more commitments — but to be methodical about it.

At the top of your to-do list, put a couple of daunting, if not impossible, tasks that are vaguely important-sounding (but really aren’t) and seem to have deadlines (but really don’t). Then, farther down the list, include some doable tasks that really matter.

“Doing these tasks becomes a way of not doing the things higher up on the list,” Dr. Perry writes.

A similar tip is described by Piers Steel, author of The Procrastination Equation:

“My best trick is to play my projects off against each other, procrastinating on one by working on another.”

Dr. Steel says it’s based on sound principles of behavioral psychology:

“We are willing to pursue any vile task as long as it allows us to avoid something worse.”

 

2) Dashes

A big part of chronic procrastination is dread. The task seems overwhelming. And that’s the first issue that needs attacking: those feelings.

By breaking the problem down into smaller chunks — even ones that require only 1 minute of activity — you prove to yourself the task isn’t insurmountable:

…a dash, which is simply a short burst of focused activity during which you force yourself to do nothing but work on the procrastinated item for a very short period of time—perhaps as little as just one minute.

So this sounds good in theory but you’re probably thinking: what’s that first step and won’t that be horribly, horribly painful?

For any procrastinated task, the first thing is to take one minute and just write down the steps you need to do to finish the task:

Just a rough draft, at first, and that’s it. Maybe just 3 steps. I then add more steps… Now, for some unknown reason, when there is nothing else to think about, and there is no way to screw this task up, because everything is laid out in front of me, I just start working on the task automatically. I might do just the first baby micro-step at first, but that’s OK. It follows to the next, and to the next, and before I know it, the task is finished.

 

3) Commitment Devices

You know that rewards and punishments can be effective in building good behavior. 

This theory can still be the backbone of a very effective strategy — once you take that pesky “you” out of the equation.

Give your friend $100. If you get the task done by 5PM, you get your $100 back. If it doesn’t, you lose the $100.

Or make it $200 that the friend doesn’t keep — they donate it to the KKK or NAMBLA in your name.

Get the picture? That’s a commitment device.

The most important thing is the default position. You can’t say “I will give them $200 if I fail.” No, you give the $200 first.

The default is: they have your money. You want it back? Get the task done on time.

 

4) Improve your mood

You procrastinate the most when you’re in a bad mood and think you can improve it with something fun.

When you’re in a good mood or when you don’t think you can improve how you feel, you screw around a lot less.

Via Temptation: Finding Self-Control in an Age of Excess:

So procrastination is a mood-management technique, albeit (like eating or taking drugs) a shortsighted one. But we’re most prone to it when we think it will actually help… Well, far and away the most procrastination occurred among the bad-mood students who believed their mood could be changed and who had access to fun distractions. This group spent nearly 14 of their 15 minutes of prep time goofing off! Students who believed their bad mood was frozen (those who were not given a supposedly mood-lifting candle) spent less than 6 minutes goofing off. (Even the good-mood students procrastinated slightly more if they believed their mood could be altered.)

If you’re really going to be motivated, you need to feel something. Having a rational goal in mind or thinking you want something just isn’t enough.

What moves you? What inspires you? Try that. Don’t know what makes you feel better? Go here.

Because glib as it may sound, changing your mood can change your mind.

 

5) The Combo

So here’s the chronic procrastination knockout punch:

1) Manage your mood throughout the day. Do the little things that keep you positive. Get enough sleep. Eat regularly. Take breaks.

2) Make your list of to-do’s with the terrifying stuff at the top and the easier stuff at the bottom.

3) Do a one minute dash and write out the steps needed to beat the first problem. This should help you get past the fear and start building momentum. If the dashes aren’t working, they’re not short and easy enough.

4) Still too difficult? Use positive procrastination and do one of the things lower on this list, rather than #1.

5) Establish your commitment device. Hand your friend that money, your most cherished possession or whatever has the most painful downside you can think of. The default position must be that you’re already screwed and need to un-screw yourself. If the commitment devices aren’t working, they’re not scary enough.

After that, just loop 3-5.

With enough practice, these become habit and that’s the goal.

The desire to procrastinate never completely vanishes. What matters is how you respond when you get that itch.

In 2012, John Azzi reached out to his old college roommate with an offer.

His roommate, Eliot Arntz, was miserable working as an accountant in New York City, so Azzi offered him a small sum to learn how to code, with the agreement he'd join Azzi's app-development agency, Bitfountain, once his education was complete.

"In the meantime, he was teaching weekend courses at General Assembly to teach others how to code simple iOS apps," Azzi remembers. "His students loved him. So I said, 'Let's put this online to reach more people at a lower price point.'"

Azzi and Arntz spent three months and about $1,000, putting together an online course on app development for iOS 7.

"The first week was crazy," Azzi says. "We literally emailed every person we knew in tech — from Eliot's GA students to people who came to an iOS meetup we hosted, telling them that we built a course that would take absolute beginners and turn them into junior developers in about three months of learning."

They charged $99 for the course, and that first month it was live, September 2013, they made about $40,000.

Their earnings flatlined, and "the next few months didn't bring in much at all," Azzi remembers. They partnered with an affiliate, which set them up with enough cash to last until the summer of 2014.

Then, says Azzi, they made "a really strategic move."

About two months before Apple released iOS 8 and its new programming language, Swift, they made their iOS 7 course free for a limited time. "We really had no idea what would happen, but it was crazy," Azzi explains. "We were on the front page of /r/programming on Reddit, hacker news, No. 1 on Product Hunt, and all over the internet. In like two days we added 60,000 people to our email list."

Just getting the subscribers didn't earn them a cent, but once iOS 8 launched, they sent out an email blast offering the course for $89. "That's when we exploded," says Azzi. "We made about $700,000."

promo-recording-1

John AzziAzzi records Arntz using their homemade setup.

"Again we were No. 1 on Product Hunt, but this time with the paid version of a course," he says. They've continued to build app-development courses, Azzi writing the material and Artnz making the videos.

They've even brought on some expert consultants, and now have nine available courses (two of which are free). Since September 2014, Azzi says, they've averaged over $100,000 a month, totaling $1 million profit for 2014 after paying their affiliates.

While building the initial iOS 8 course, the duo had moved from New York City to Berlin. "We didn’t have a ton of money because iOS 7 wasn't as huge," Azzi says, "but Berlin is really cheap, so it was the perfect place for us to buckle down for a few months and get the iOS 8 course launched. When we brought in some money, we were traveling all over the world."

After working everywhere from Tel Aviv to the beach in Palolem, India — "all we need are our laptops and our mics" — Azzi is now living in Paris, and Arntz will leave for Melbourne, Australia, after spending five months in Barcelona. In the last year, Azzi estimates, they've visited 17 countries.

And what would Azzi advise others who might be interested in a similar lifestyle? "Build the best possible course in whatever topic you are teaching," he says. "There are a ton of free resources out there to learn iOS, but why did our course get 60,000 students in two days and not the others? And why did thousands of people subsequently pay us for our courses? Because we put everything we have into being the best on the market.

"We have a policy of responding to all student questions on our forums within 24 hours. We take at least four months of full-time work to write our material and shoot the videos. Students are paying you more than the cost of a technical book, so you better make sure you exceed expectations."

Are you satisfied with your life? Do you go to work knowing you could do better?

Knowing there are unique talents in you that could make you great, the best in the world?

This post is about achieving mastery. But also why it’s ok to not get mastery in the traditional sense. You can define it, not use the definitions provided by everyone else.

In other words, it’s fine to be a loser.

There are a lot of books written on this topic. If you want to read an entire book on it, read Robert Greene’s “Mastery” (or watch my podcast with him). There’s also “Outliers” by Malcom Gladwell.

But it’s not that hard. It doesn’t take a book to describe what makes a master. For one thing, most of us, and I mean me, will not be masters at anything.

I try. I tried with chess. I hit the rank of “master” but that doesn’t mean anything. I’ll never be world class at it. I’ve tried with writing. I’ve been writing for twenty or so years.

But I’ve known a lot of people who are among the best in the world in their field. I’ve read all the books. I’ve talked to all the people and dissected what they thought led them to their mastery.

I’ve built and sold businesses to people who were masters of their fields in every industry. I’ve invested in people who were masters in their fields.

So I’ve at least recognized who were masters and what they did.

Take this then with a grain of salt but based on my experience and the experiences of all the people I’ve interacted with.

Here are the elements of mastery. I also have some good news and bad news.

  1. A) TALENT.

I hate to say it, but talent is a factor.

There’s a myth that everyone is talented at at least one thing and you just have to find it.

This isn’t true.

Most people are not talented at anything. Most people can be pretty good at something. For instance, Tim Ferris shows in “The Four Hour Chef” how you can be a pretty good chef with four hours worth of work.

I’ve tried his techniques and in four hours I made some pretty good dishes. Thank you, Tim. But at the launch of Tim’s book he held a dinner where each course (I think there were eight of them) was cooked by a different chef.

One of the chefs was (approximately) eight years old and his dish might’ve been the best served. That kid will be a master one day if he isn’t already. That’s talent.

When my chess ranking was peaking back in 1997 I played in a tournament against a girl fittingly named Irina Krush.

She really did crush me in about 25 moves. After the game she told me, “May be your bishop to B4 move felt a little weak to me.” She was right.

She was 13 years old. I stopped playing chess in tournaments right that moment and now only play when I’m on the phone with people. She had talent. She’s now one of the youngest women grandmasters in the world.

  1. B) HOW DO YOU FINDwhat you are talented at? I think there are roughly two methods.
  2. i) Take out a pad.

List everything you enjoyed doing from the ages of six to eighteen, before your life was ruled by college, relationships, crappy jobs, mortgages, kids, responsibilities, self-loathing, etc.

I was talking to Lewis Howes on my podcast. He mentioned he always wanted to be an athlete since he was a little kid.

He also mentioned that he used networking skills to help himself out even at an early age in order to deal with what seemed like poor academic skills. He found his two talents and became masters at both.

Often, it’s a combination of sub-talents that make you uniquely a master in that one field.

For me, I don’t know if I will master anything, but since I was a kid I loved writing, games, and anything to do with business. Maybe one day.

  1. ii) Go to the bookstore.

Find a topic you would be willing to read 500 books on. If you can’t wait to read all 500 books in the knitting section then you probably have a talent at knitting.

Note that it is really ok to not be talented at anything. We weren’t put on this Earth to be talented at knitting.

Do you know why we were put in this Earth? I hope you know, because then you could tell me. But chances are there really isn’t any reason.

We ultimately are a combination of all of our experiences, all of the things we are interested in, all of the things we flirt with. And that combination might look like garbage to everyone else.

So play with your garbage and be happy. If you can do that, you’re in the top 0.00001%.

  1. C) FOUR HOURS A DAY.

It’s not mystery Tim Ferriss’s books all start with “The Four Hour…” I ask almost every master I encounter, in every field, how much time per day do they spend mastering their field.

They did not give the standard Silicon Valley BS Entrepreneur answer: “I work 20 hours a day and if I didn’t need to sleep I’d work 30 hours a day”.

You can’t get good at something if you are working 20 hours a day. In fact, something is very wrong in your life if that is how much you are working at ONE thing.

The typical answer is: “I study four hours a day”. Anatoly Karpov, former World Chess Chamption, said the maximum he would study chess is three hours a day. That’s a guy who was a world champion.

Then, when he wasn’t in tournaments, he’d spend the rest of the day exercising, studying languages, doing other things to balance out his life.

  1. D) HISTORY.

In any area of life you want to succeed at, you have to study the history.

All art is created in context. If someone wrote Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony right now it would be laughed at. It wouldn’t fit the current context of music, even though it would be a work of genius.

Andy Warhol tried many different areas of art before he decided that painting Campbell’s Soup Cans were the right art for the right moment in time.

In any sport, studying the history of how previous world champions played and trained is critical towards figuring how you can improve on that training and playing.

In any business, studying the history of that industry, the biographies of the prior executives, the successes and failures of those who went before you, is critical for mastering that business.

For example, I had Greg Zuckerman on the podcast talking about the current resurgence in oil drilling in the US. Everyone thought the US was out of oil back in the 1970s.

Well, now the fastest growing city in the United States is Williston, North Dakota and the US will probably be a net energy exporter by 2020. This is not a political opinion on fracking. It’s just reality what is happening now.

If I were remotely interested in fracking I’d study where all the oil was drilled back in the 1920s, 1950s, 1970s. How the first wildcatters found their wells. What technologies were used. What’s the history of the technology. How were improvements made. What’s the history of the geopolitics around oil drilling. And so on. Somewhere in there there is a path to getting incredibly wealthy. Not for me, because I could care less about oil. But for someone. Or many.

  1. E) STUDY YOUR FAILURES.

I was talking poker champ Ylon Schwartz. He’s won over $7mm in tournament winnings and untold millions in informal cash games. We grew up together playing chess until he made the switch first to backgammon and then poker.

I asked him why a lot of people play poker for 20 years but never get better. What’s the story?

He said, “everyone wants to blame someone. They want to blame bad luck. Or they had a fight with their wife. Or something. But the key is you have to study your failures. You have to take notes about your losing hands and even your winning hands. You have to think about everything.”

We spoke about another friend of ours who went from homeless to millionaire in six months once he found that he had a knack for backgammon.

His name was Falafel because at the time that was all he could afford to eat.

Ylon told me, “Falafel memorized every statistic about backgammon. Right now on the web you can see that his tournament games are ranked #1 in terms of how accurately they mimic a computer. Falafel also studied every single game he lost.”

I used to play Falafel every day in chess. He’d sleep on the ground in Washington Square Park and get up in the morning with dirt and leaves in his hair and we’d play chess for fifty cents a game. Now million dollar bankrolls from backgammon are normal for him.

  1. F) EXPERIENCE.

At some point you have to cook 10,000 meals. Or play a million hands of poker. Or 1000s of games of chess. Or start 20 businesses.

Very few are successful right away. That would require too much luck and luck favors the prepared and the persistent.

In those 1000s of whatever you will encounter much failure. We all know that the best baseball players in the world are enormous successes if they strike out “only” 70% of the time.

When my dad died I went to his house and logged onto this chess account. I saw that he played about 30,000 games. He never got any better.

A lot of people can play the 10,000 hands of poker and never get better. Or bake 1000 cakes and never get better.

You have to remember your experiences, study your failures, try to note what you did right and what you did wrong, and remember them for future experiences.

Will future experiences be exactly like the old experiences? Almost never.

But you have to have the ability to say “Hmm, this is like the time four years ago when X, Y, and Z happened.”

  1. G) PATTERN RECOGNITION

Being able to recognize when current circumstances are like an experience you had in the past or an experience SOMEONE ELSE you’ve studied had in the past is critical to mastery.

Pattern recognition and mastery is a combination of all of the above: study + history + experience + talent + a new thing…Love.

  1. H) LOVE

Andre Agassi famously says he doesn’t love tennis. I believe this and I don’t believe it. We all know that there are all kinds of love. There’s unconditional love, which is very hard. The Dalai Lama can have unconditional love.

Then there’s lust. You look at someone and she is the Oomph to your Ugh. She is the BAM! to you BOOM! You dream and daydream and dream and daydream until the love is all worn out and six months or six years later it’s over and you move on.

Then there’s love that matures. There’s a set of things you like about a person, even love. Mix that in with some lust. Then this love mashup changes over time.

Or you learn to adapt because you know that a maturing love is not one where you settle or explore the subtleties inside the other person but you are finally able to explore the subtletites inside of yourself.

And sometimes you just fall out of love. There is no shame in this. Do what your heart tells you to do.

Some relationships are weird combinations of all of the above. They are tumultuous. There is much pain and much pleasure. Perhaps tennis was like that for Agassi. I can’t speak for him.

But to become a master at anything there will be much pain. And it can’t be avoided. Nobody has avoided it.

If something is too much pain, then it’s not the worst thing in the world to give up. I don’t like dental surgery. It’s too much pain for me. So my teeth are messed up a bit. I give up on having perfect teeth.

  1. I) PSYCHOLOGY.

One reason most people in the world don’t get really good at anything is because they have no talent for anything that anyone cares about.

Another reason is they don’t want to put in the work. I understand this.

Often it’s better to be social and have friends and strong family relationships and love people.

Many people who have mastered something often have a hard time with their relationships with family members or spouses or friends. Van Gogh cut off his ear. Dostoevsky, Kafka, Bobby Fischer, Godel, were never known for their social skills and often were faced with depression, suicidal tendencies or borderline schizophrenia.

When you have a career, there’s this idea that you will go from success to success. You start in the cubicle, then you get an office, then a corner office, then you move horizontally into a CEO position at another company, and so on.

You might have some failures along the way but they won’t be big failures.

With mastery the one thing in common is that there are ALWAYS big failures.

With poker champ Ylon Schwartz, the day before he left for Las Vegas in 2008 where he won over $3 million I was with him, providing support for him in a court case. He had a court appointed attorney because he was dead broke and in debt.

He asked me that day, “I have to get on a plane for Las Vegas tomorrow and when I get back I could go to jail. How am I going to get through this?”

I didn’t have an answer for him other than the usual cliches. But he got on that plane. And every day he went higher and higher in chips. And he won $3.7 million in that tournament and hasn’t looked back.

A lot of people in the investing world don’t like Tim Sykes. He has a very arrogant marketing style. He’s a friend of mine and I can tell you he’s not that arrogant. He’s extremely humble. The reason he’s so humble is that he’s gone broke several times since his first success.

It’s no fun going broke. I’ve gone broke several times. You never go broke and think, “Well, it didn’t work this time, but it will work next time.”

You go broke and you think, “That was the worst experience in my life and I’d be better off dead. That was my last chance. It’s all over for me now. I’d rather be dead than go through this pain I’m feeling right now. And everyone around me would be better off if I were dead.”

That’s what you think.

And when Tim was making one of his comebacks, nobody would speak to him. I had him on some videos with the company I was working with but ultimately they banned him.

So he chose himself. He did all of the above. I’ve since looked at his audited track record and seen that he’s made millions from trading. I know 1000s of daytraders. 1000s. I know one successful daytrader and that’s Tim.

On the path to Mastery , everything will go wrong.

As Robert Greene points out in his book, “Mastery”, Napoleon got banished to Elba where he supposedly said his famous palindrome (somehow speaking English for the first and only time in his life) “Able was I ere I saw Elba”

Every master has his Elba. Banished to an island where the life you once knew no longer exists and it seems like there is no way to escape.

Napoleon escaped because he was the best in the world at what he does.

Because he had the psychology, or perhaps the blind spot, to not recognize that this was “it”, his final destination. Studying how he came back to power is a great example of psychology mixed with all of the above skills in becoming a master.

Tim went from millions to broke to trading out of his parent’s basement to millions again and this time he’s not going to fall back.

Bobby Fischer spent much of his life in borderline schizophrenic agony when he couldn’t deal with his losses. He’d disappear for years at a time but then come back stronger than ever.

How do you build that psychology? I don’t know. It’s a combination of many things:

– Ego. A real belief that you can be the best, against all possible rational evidence against this. Against everyone trashing you simultaneously.

– No way out. I asked Ylon, Lewis, and many others what were they thinking at rock bottom and the answer almost always was: “What else could I do with my life? I had to keep going!”

  1. J) PERSISTENCE.

Add up all of the above and you get persistence. Persistence creates luck.

Persistence overcomes failure. Persistence gets you experience. Persistence is a sentence of failures punctuated by the briefest of successes, and eventually those successes will start to propel you towards mastery.

Not one success or two. But many many many.

How do you get persistent when life is filled with changing careers, relationships, responsibilities, economic crashes, historical upswings, and so many things that can get in your way.

There’s no answer at all. That’s why it’s called persistence. Because no matter where you are, there you are, doing what you always did. Not letting any of the above stop you. Using all of the above in your Mastery Arsenal to propel you to higher successes and deeper failures and then even higher successes.

It’s painful and brutal and no fun and nobody will ever understand why. And when you achieve success people will act as if it’s the most natural thing in the world to have happened to you.

And you try to explain, “No, there was this one time…” but they don’t want to hear it. They want to know what their next move should be so they can be where you are.

There’s no next move. There’s only your next move.

  1. K) MYSTERY

Ultimately, Mastery = Mystery. You’re going to break the sound barrier on some field that nobody has ever gone that fast or that far. You’re going to find your own unique combination of passions that make you the best in the world at that combination.

What if nobody cares? That’s ok also. You care.

What if you never go for the mystery. What if you settle back into the known, the comfortable, the stree-free existence of your peers and colleagues and everyone you ever knew.

The world might not allow it. What you thought was comfortable might’ve been a myth also.

So you can only do this:

Ask: what can I do right now to move forward. Only this second. Having a goal in the distant future is almost a damnation of this moment in time. An insult.

We can’t predict the future. And the history of mastery shows that nobody was able to predict which goals would work and which wouldn’t.

Only this moment matters. Health-wise: physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Can you move forward today in each?

Then you will attract the mastery and the mystery.

—-

THE GOOD NEWS:

You don’t have to be the master of the world. You don’t have to do any of the above.

Very few people do. And many of them experienced much hardship and pain along the way. And will continue to experience that hardship.

We live in a culture where it’s almost a damnation to be considered mediocre. But society has no clue about what real mastery is. Don’t listen to any of the “Top 10 things…” articles. Don’t listen to anyone. Not even me.

Freud has said that our two goals in life are human connection and achievement.

But often it’s a reasonable goal to overcome these evolutionary inclinations.

To be happy with your loved ones. To be satisfied for every gift in your life, for every moment, not rushing to the next moment of mastery. True mastery can be found right here, right now.

Choosing yourself right now in how you treat yourself, how you treat the people around you, how you treat your efforts and your loves.

Nothing is more important than this. Nothing compounds into greater happiness in life more than this.

Because when you rush to get to a mythical THERE, one day you will arrive and realize you missed all of the pleasures and mysteries along the way.